Commonly Misinterpreted Basketball Rules


People who play pickup games often don’t know the rules. Unfortunately they also think they are right when they get into an argument with me about the rulebook.

Yesterday I got into an argument with someone over whether or not you can catch your own airball. Guy on my team threw up a layup and it barely missed the rim. He picked it up and layed it up. Traveling?

Surprisingly, no, it’s not traveling anywhere except the NBA. Though in most games at Rucker Park I’m guessing they’d call it a travel.

So this made me think of other rules that I commonly get into arguments with people over. Here’s the top 5:

  • Catching your own airball is allowed if it was a legitimate shot unless you’re playing your pickup game according to NBA rules, which makes you a douchebag.
  • The top and side of the backboard is not out of bounds, only the back-facing plane of the backboard is.
  • Step-throughs are not traveling. An initial jump-stop with two feet makes either foot eligible as a pivot foot. Therefore the act of jump-stopping with two feet, choosing either foot to pivot and stepping through with the opposite foot is a totally legal move even though it may appear to be traveling to an idiot.
  • The playground hesitation dribble is a carry. You know that move that “all-star” ballers use on you? They bring the ball back, turn their hand over like they are going to shoot it and when you crowd them them resume their dribble and go around you. Well, that’s bullshit and it’s double dribble because they already picked up their dribble.
  • A player can’t touch the ball until they’ve established legal position. If I’m out of bounds and I jump back in, touching the ball before my feet hit the floor, I’m still out of bounds and I just turned it over to the other team no matter how much I complain.

Of course, none of this matters, because in pickup games the person willing to be the biggest complainer usually gets their way. Doesn’t make them right, though.

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